For a few years now, Brendan Guhle has been the next guy in the Buffalo Sabres prospect pool that would contribute on the blue line. He played in 18 games with the Sabres last season but was again unable to secure a spot on the roster out of training camp this year.
With Rasmus Dahlin in the mix and the emergence of Lawrence Pilut, the 21-year-old defender is no longer the crown jewel of the prospect pool on defense.
Guhle has battled turnover issues to start his season in the AHL with the Rochester Americans but has started to turn things around as of late. Through 22 games with the Amerks, he has two goals and 12 points, while playing top pair minutes.
The talent is there for Guhle and he has the potential to be an impactful top-four defenseman at the NHL level. He’s an excellent skater, with size, and an ability to get involved offensively.
However, in the matter of one season, Guhle may have gone from a nearly untouchable to the Sabres most tradable prospect commodity.
Both Jason Botterill and Phil Housley have talked highly of the former second-round pick at times, but he was selected by former general manager Tim Murray. It doesn’t make it easier for Botterill to move him, but in a numbers game, it could make Guhle the odd man out.
Guhle is a left-shot defender, which doesn’t work in his favor with how the roster is currently constructed. Jake McCabe, Dahlin, and Pilut are arguably your three left-shot defensemen moving into the future. Nathan Beaulieu is a lefty who is a restricted-free-agent at the end of this season. Matt Hunwick is another left-shot with one-year remaining after this season on his deal. Also, don’t forget about Marco Scandella, another lefty with a year on his contract after this season.
That’s six players in the NHL alone.
Then when you get to the prospect pool, you see another log jam beginning on the left side. Mattias Samuelsson, the 32nd overall pick in this past June is a lefty, as is, fourth-round pick Linus Cronholm. Outside of those two, Jacob Bryson (2017 fourth-round pick) and Brandon Hickey are two more left-handed defensemen.
When you add in the six players in the NHL and the five in the prospect pool, including Guhle, you begin to see how the numbers work against him.
The Sabres still have a lot of holes they need to fill on their roster and could use Guhle as a top-prospect asset in trade discussions. They’d be taking a player from a position of strength, in terms of depth, and flipping him in part of a package to add depth to another area on the roster.
Personally, I would be disappointed to see Guhle moved out of the organization. I’ve been a big fan of his skating and potential. On the flip side, the reality is if the Sabres want to try to acquire top players to help them now they must be willing to give up key assets.
It’ll be interesting to see the approach the Sabres take with Guhle moving forward.